Barry Blumenstock thought he'd be a good Samaritan.
Instead, he feels like a chump.
Go back to November of 1989. Blumenstock's driving along Northern Parkway, toward Park Heights Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, and as he nears Pimlico Junior High he spots a Scottish terrier dragging himself agonizingly across the street.
The dog's been hit by a car and has lost the use of his back legs. Pulling himself on his front elbows, he's trying to make the safety of the median strip.
Blumenstock, 39, is on his way to an appointment. He's a home inspector for real estate companies. But seeing the injured dog, simple compassion takes over and he makes a U-turn at Park Heights and swings back to the scene of the accident.
Across the street, he sees a young couple in a white car. They've hit the dog and seem immobilized by shock or confusion.
As Blumenstock carries the dog to the median strip, a city police officer arrives.
"Take him to the Falls Road Animal Hospital," says the cop.
"Uh, I didn't hit the dog," Blumenstock says.
"They have a shock-trauma unit there," says the cop.
The dog, Blumenstock remembers, was black and weighed about 25 pounds and "was very brave. He was quiet, and he didn't snap at you. I guess he was in shock. He was whimpering a little from the pain. And I felt real bad for him."
The people who'd hit him said good-bye and left. Blumenstock and the cop saw the dog had tags. Blumenstock agreed to take the dog to the hospital, while the cop called the owners listed on the tags.
"That's where we had the first problem," Blumenstock said yesterday. "The people listed on the tags said they'd given the dog away recently. They gave us the name of the new owners. By now, I'm at the animal hospital, and somebody calls the new owners. But the new owners say they don't want the dog either."
Everybody's in a bind. The dog, named Jock, seems to have become instantly orphaned at the crossroads of his life.
"My own feeling," says Blumenstock, "was that I'd take the dog to the hospital and go my way. But then, you know, he becomes this underdog, so to speak. Nobody wants him. And the people at the hospital are just wonderful, everybody very nurturing, very caring, and we all want to help him."
Help, however, has its price.
"They told me," says Blumenstock, "that they couldn't do treatment until they got some money and somebody signed for him. If not, they said he'd probably die. I said, 'OK, it isn't my dog, I'm just a guy who wandered past the accident scene. But maybe you could work on him and find him a home. How much do you think it'll be?'
"They said, 'Maybe $150.' I said, 'OK, let me put in some money to start it off and maybe you all could help out.' I had about $12 on me. And then I went back the next day and dropped off about $65."
Shortly thereafter, Blumenstock's company transferred him to Florida. Jock recovered from dislocated rear hips and the hospital found a new owner for him.
And, in Florida, Blumenstock started getting letters from Falls Road Animal Hospital.
The letters said he owed $294 for Jock's treatment.
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"I called them," Blumenstock, who has since moved back to Baltimore, said yesterday. "I said, 'Uh, it wasn't my dog. It wasn't even me who hit the dog. And anyway, where is the dog?' "
Someone at the hospital had found a new owner for Jock, he was told.
"Well," said Blumenstock, "did they pay anything?"
No, he was told, but Jock was now one of the hospital's regular clients.
And everybody -- including Jock's new owners -- thinks Blumenstock should pay the old bill.
Everybody, that is, except Blumenstock.
"Of course he should pay," says Herb Hammond, vice president of the Falls Road Animal Hospital. "If he brought the dog in, he assumed responsibility to pay for it. I can't understand what the hell he's talking about. What should we do, take the money out of our own pocket?"
"I kind of thought we'd all pitch in," says Blumenstock. "I mean, it wasn't my dog, I didn't hit the dog, but I didn't want the dog to die. So I put up what I was told would be half the bill. So why am I suddenly the only one responsible?"
Blumenstock says he's no longer getting letters from the animal hospital.
Instead, they've turned it over to a collection agency, which is hinting at court action. He says he's tried to explain the story to the collection agency, but they don't seem interested in details, just dollars.
"I don't get it," says Blumenstock. "I thought I was the good guy here. I thought I did my part, and other people would do their part. Instead, I'm just the fall guy."
Now, he says, the collection agency is no longer writing him letters.
He says they're beginning to telephone his office.